Pre-birth Advice from PSP Members

How do you prepare for birth? PSP parents share their real life experiences and perspective on getting ready for giving birth.


Get post-birth advice from PSP members here.



“You will never be truly prepared.”

“Birth is a highly unpredictable event that you have little to no control over. Educate yourself on everything you can so you can make decisions in the moment. Finally, as long as you end up with a healthy baby and healthy mom, be at peace with however it happened.”

“Birth is only the beginning.”

"All babies are different- don't feel bad if the advice given to you doesn't work for your baby."

"This is impossible: I wish I would have relaxed more. I spent way too much time being nervous. How you'd "do that differently" is impossible to say."

 "Don't wait to get the help you need."

 "We really do just figure it out. Nobody knows what they’re doing and it’s all okay! I always need to remind myself of this."

"I wish I had less expectations. Going in to birth and motherhood I had so many “plans” and “ideas” of what each would be like. And in reality they were both indescribably SO much harder and inexplicable. Looking back I wish I had just told myself to go with the flow a bit more. Because nothing can prepare you for either, except experience."

"Take all advice with a grain of salt. You need to find what works for you. Likely everything will NOT go as planned, whether it is the type of birth you have, breastfeeding, sleeping etc, and that is ok. This is a tough job and you just do the best you can and ask for help when you need it!"


Trust your instincts, speak up for yourself, ask questions, and feel empowered:

"You must self advocate. If you want something, ask. Do not expect the hospital to give you anything other than socks and a gown. Make sure to ask for a lactation consultant, birthing ball and any other shared resources."

“Please trust your instincts! If something feels good, go with it. If you feel uncomfortable, there's probably a reason. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and your baby, even if it means making other people feel uncomfortable.”

“Find someone who you trust and go over what you are looking for with them and the beginning and then let them guide you. Things may not go at all according to what you imagined and you will not be able to navigate the process on your own. The best way to feel like you have had a good experience is to know that whoever you chose is doing their best on your behalf. And then no matter what happens you will feel ok about the result.”

“If you don't like your doctor - FIND A NEW ONE. If you have ANY questions or concerns or are freaking out about anything CALL YOUR DOCTOR - it's their job to help you through the process. STAY OFF THE INTERNET. Google is not a doctor and does not have children.”

"Listen to your instincts, no matter what kind of birth you have. If you have a question, ask it; if you are worried, do something about it; if you are feeling iffy about your practitioner, find a new one."

"When you are pregnant, people love to share unsolicited horror stories. It's ok to stop them and say, "Can we talk about that after I give birth?"

 "Don't be afraid to call your team for help and ask questions. Doctors take turns being on call and staffing the after hours number for a reason!"

"Don't be shy about asking the nurses questions. They may assume you know what to do with a newborn. I wasn't doing something as basic as burping after nursing because I assumed I didn't need to with just colostrum."


Educate yourself ahead of time about being a new parent:

"Definitely take a birthing class! This would help you make a well informed birth plan.  However, don't be disappointed if you end up deviating from it. Everything will be okay."

"Don’t leave birth classes until the last minute. We took the advice of a friend who said what we learn will be fresh in the mind, but then our son was early and we felt very unprepared since we only had one class in."

"Also, have information about common newborn issues like jaundice. My baby had to go under the special lights in the NICU for 4 days and I had no idea that could happen."

"Do some homework on breastfeeding before the birth- even if you aren't sure you will breastfeed. When we came home my husband put together a basket of BF supplies- lanolin, pads, pump supplies, etc that I could take to wherever I was nursing. This was super helpful! Also, we have loved the Fisher Price rock and play. It's easy to move from room to room and she seems to like the white noise and rocking."

"Even if you're SURE you won't have a C-section, learn the basics about the procedure just in case. I didn't and so I was learning a lot of critical info under extreme duress, which I do not recommend for anyone."

"Take a breastfeeding class BEFORE the baby comes- you'll save yourself potential stress and pain. Stock your freezer- I ate way more breastfeeding than I did when pregnant. Buy a miracle blanket. Cherish the time alone with your partner."

"I wish I had paid attention to the fact that "setting up"equipment is not the same as making sure you know how to use it.  Making sure you know how to use all of the gadgets you have for the baby BEFORE you need to use it is crucial.  I also advise that for those mothers who choose to breastfeed; taking classes before hand can be helpful.  Learning how to use and clean the pumps and pump parts and having an idea of what breast feeding/pumping habits are the most important to foster early on can be incredibly helpful.  Breastfeeding/pumping is a lot more involved than I ever would have imagined and deserves as much attention as preparing for the birth."

"I would say to be careful about how many books you read and how much you pay attention to them, especially when they're about babies' behavior. Your baby is unique and so are you as a parent. Try not to make you and your baby fit some type that's written about in a book! Just work with and love what you have right in front of you!"

 "Read more about what to expect once baby is born, like the first days at the hospital."


Do your research! Review C-sections and other OBs and Hospital policies:

“Do your research, read reviews, and then make appointments to meet with your doctor(s) and tour the hospital early on - you will feel so much more confident in your decision!”

“Do your research on the OB-GYN and their approach (induction policy for post-due date babies, Cesarean policy, episiotomy, types of induction medication, glucose testing policy, etc), and make sure you are comfortable with those.I would have prepared myself more for the possibility of a c section.Even if you are preparing for a low-intervention birth, learn about c-section births, just in case!”

"Be prepared for an unexpected c-section."

"While everything with my OBGYN turned out fine, I wish I had met with more practices before settling on this one, because I really would have wanted more personal care during the pregnancy."


Find a “vibe”:

“Find someone you are comfortable with and makes you feel at ease. Whether that is someone who is calm and chill or energetic and thinking 5 steps ahead-think through your own style and find someone who matches.”

“Spend some time thinking about what will make you feel safest and most calm, whether that's being at home the whole time or knowing that you are in a state-of-the-art hospital should anything go wrong, and then work around that. Don't go into the deliver making decisions based on what you think you "should" do.”


Write a birth plans but prepare to go with the flow:

“Write a birth plan--even if you don't use it, its good to have thought about these things before hand.”

“Don't get too hung up on the labor - it is ultimately a small part of the journey to come. Now that I have a 7 week old I keep thinking I wish I had spent more time preparing for the baby then reading/preparing for the labor. I think a lot of women become obsessed with this picture perfect natural child birth and while it is not unreasonable to have expectations and a plan I think it is important to be flexible and open to the possibility that things may not go as planned.”

"And don't get too attached to a birthing plan."

"I wish I hadn’t been so fixated on my due date! I ended up going 13 days past my due date and the last two weeks of my pregnancy were extremely anxiety filled because I thought I was ‘doing something’ wrong or that the baby would be huge, and I felt such a lack of control. At best, a due date is a prediction of when you might have the baby but the reality is, it’s not up to you and it could happen at anytime! It was the first of many lessons in being flexible on this parenthood journey."


Remain flexible and relax about the birth:

“Be flexible, don't over think anything, things are never going to go by plan, especially at birth.”

"I approached my labor/delivery with an open mind. Though I had preferences for how I hoped it would go, you just never know how it will happen and how your body will react. So when the actual labor didn’t look exactly like I expected, I think it was really valuable to be flexible."

“Don't try to control the process-- just be open to the experience b/c it is truly amazing!”

“Don't be overly committed to a specific birth plan. The most important thing is to have a healthy baby, and your health care providers will make that their primary objective.  Be flexible in order to ensure that happens.”

“Our birth theme was "flexibility and a healthy baby". While my preference was to go natural when I ended up using the epidural I was comfortable with that because we had prioritized flexibility above anything else.”

"Don't get caught up in having the "perfect" birth. It is largely outside of your control, and as much as you plan, it is important to try to remain calm and not get stressed or disappointed when things don't go according to your plan. The most important thing is the health and safety of you and your baby. I was very fixated on having an unmedicated birth, and with my first one, I ended up having to be given pitocin to move things along because my water had broken and I wasn't progressing enough. With the pitocin, the contractions became super intense, and after almost 24 hours of laboring, I was exhausted and needed to get an epidural. I felt very guilty about this for a while afterward, like I wasn't strong enough to make it through. However, my daughter was born healthy, had no issues, and is now a thriving almost-6 year old. With my subsequent two pregnancies, I attempted to labor without an epidural, and ended up getting one as things progressed because honestly I couldn't stand the pain, and needed to regain my energy to push. I still wonder whether I'm just a wimp and envy those women who do it without the epi, but in the end I realize it doesn't make one ounce of difference and is not worth even worrying about (despite a lot of pressure I felt from reading books and listening to individuals touting the benefits of a "natural" childbirth)."


Expect the unexpected:

“Prepare to be surprised! There is no amount of studying that will prepare you for childbirth; just be prepared to let it all go and listen to your body (and nurses!!).

Don't obsess about the birth plan/experience. It’s over very quickly. Much more important to familiarize yourself with basic baby care (bathing, swaddling, nose aspirating, measuring temperature, etc), because once the baby is born, its much harder to find time to learn about these things and you need to use them right away!

My best advice is to think through (with your partner, doula, doc...) what you envision, but equally, not to hold too tight to that vision. These little babies sometimes have their own ideas of how they will come into the world, and holding fast to _your_ vision may make their arrival all the more complicated. Let go, and let the baby come.”

"Would also prepare the mind for anything in terms of the birth. There is no way to know how things will go exactly so it’s important to go with the flow and keep the mind open and not get too caught up with your birth plan."


Take care of yourself, mentally as well as physically:

"Meditate and seek therapy during your pregnancy. Both were the smartest things I did as I prepared myself mentally for the birth and as a new mother. I ended up having a c section and I don't think without all my mental and physical training, I could have gone through it as smoothly as I did."

"I would have a big, full meal at home before you go to the hospital, whether if you're in labor or think there's a chance you could be induced (which happened to me). I ate on a Wednesday night, went in Thursday morning for suspected leaking fluid, was induced that afternoon,  and didn't eat again until after my baby was born late Friday night! Needless to say I was starving. The hospital offered me broth and sugar free jello, but of which were DISGUSTING."

"I would recommend getting a Lactation consultant earlier on. Do more of pre natal Yoga and not gain as much weight if possible. I gained 55lbs!"

"Keep doing yoga even late in pregnancy (even if it’s just for 10min)! Be ready for things not going according to plan. Take things one day (or even one feeding) at time. Say yes when people offer to help, and then be specific about what help you need!"


Get rest and "alone" time immediately after the birth:

I advise having the baby sent to the nursery for the nights that you are in the hospital. Friends told me this as well, and even though I debated doing it, you are so exhausted and sore that you need the rest! If you are breast feeding, they bring the baby to you every 2-3 hours for feedings, but in between you can try to sleep."

"I would not have had any family come to visit in the first week. I wanted down time and no one to visit at hospital or home for first few days."
Related reading on PSP: Tips for managing the family - before, during, after giving birth.

But another parent says, "so happy to have support the first week we were home. it was the toughest time for my recovery and adjusting to life with baby. as time went on, we were able to do more on our own.


Treat yourself to the extras:

"I wish we had gotten newborn photos taken in the Hospital."

"We debated getting a doula because it was our second and I am SO glad we did. Seriously, compared to the cost of raising a child this is nothing and really completely changed the experience (and made it safer) both times. Doulas: not just for hippies."


Have a go bag:

"Go Bag:  The hospital provides most of what you'll need -underwear, socks, lanolin, gown- so the contents of your  bag should be minimal, but these three things are must haves: noise cancelling headphones, sleep mask (like cheap eye mask you get on a plane), flip flops."
Related reading on PSP: what to bring to the hospital.

"I packed too much in my hospital bag! And never wore most of it like slippers, underwear, bras, make up, pjs, etc."

"Have the hospital bag ready in advance."

"Make sure you bring extra clothes for discharge in case your water breaks while you're wearing your only skirt. I didn't bother wearing anything but the hospital gown so you don't really need fancy pajamas - but a good robe is essential for comfort, warmth and modesty...also prepare in advance a timeline of every form and document to insurance or disability that you'll need to submit after the birth because you will forget!" Read more advice from PSP members about what to bring to hospital >


Show gratitude to your birth team:

Bring sweets for the nurses. They work really hard and love treats. Plus they'll be super generous with you because of it :)."


Stock up on essentials sparingly:

"Don't go crazy with buying stuff.  Hospital (at least NYM) will give you everything you need, including diapers & formulas.  Just be nice and ask the nurses to replenish every day you're there and right before you leave.  All you really need is an EMPTY and LARGE duffel bag to the hospital to bring back as much stuff as you can when you leave."

“You don't need 95% of baby stuff before the baby comes. Get the bare necessities because people gift you so much, after the baby comes too.

“Do not buy anything but the essentials until you need them. We knew nothing about what we needed before the baby was born - only through experience did we realize what we would and would not need. It’s easy and quick to buy what you need after.”

"Wait to purchase certain things. Each baby is different, and you really don't know what he or she will like. Bottles for example! I bought tons of the Avent bottles, and didn't end up using them because my baby prefers Dr. Browns. I can also say the same about my Tula carrier (my baby did not like facing in!), and our swing/rocker (my baby doesn't care for this automated rocker). Maybe try things out with your baby before you buy them. Or buy things used...that way, the risk isn't so bad if it doesn't work out for you."


Shop second hand when you can:

“Don't buy many new clothes. The baby grows so fast! Just get lots of hand-me-downs.”

“Buy as little as possible because you really need so few things in the beginning. I wish we had waited on making purchases like strollers and carriers because - now that she's here - the reality is a lot different than we envisioned. We hardly ever use a stroller and we prefer a woven wrap to the Ergo we received as a shower gift. Also, buy big ticket items used whenever possible!”

“Register for stuff that you can return for credit. And DONT open ANYTHING until you are sure you will use it. Return as much as possible for stuff you actually need when you need it.”

Wait until after the birth to decide on breastfeeding accessories like stools or pillows. I didn't need mine at all.


Plan for “Life After Birth”:

"I wish I prepared for postpartum more, I really didn't know how physically exhausted I'd be and how long it would take me to heal from my birth."

"The one thing I wish I had done differently is spent less time preparing for and focused on the birth (since so much of it is out of your control) and more of my mental energy thinking ahead to tips and tricks for taking care of a newborn. I spent a lot of bleary-eyed days and nights troubleshooting with books and blogs I was reading on the fly - so much of the advice out there is completely contradictory and combined with the hormones and sleeplessness it was tough and frustrating to learn on the go. But maybe it would have felt that way regardless of how much we'd prepped."

“Picking a good childbirth/newborn care/breastfeeding class before delivery was useful for us to feel more prepared for the craziness of the first few days with a newborn."

"Have a lactation consultant signed up to come to your house BEFORE you leave the hospital or birthing center. When you call your pediatrician to make that first appointment, also call the lactation consultant. It's equally important and no matter how great or not great things are going in the hospital, you will want their support when you return home."

"I wish I prepared more for the baby and my marriage as opposed to focusing most of my energy on the birth which is like less than one day and you have little control over."

Figure out things to eat for lunch in advance of baby.”

“Birthing classes probably weren't as worth it as the newborn care class (especially when you have a good midwife). You don't need so much stuff for the hospital. A private room is worth it after a c-section. Don't be afraid to speak up.”

“Prepare for post-partum too: what if you can't breastfeed?  What if your baby is supremely difficult?  what if s/he has a birth defect you didn't know about?  Be prepared to adapt and everything will be great.

“Remember, birth is only the beginning.  If possible, begin to prepare yourself for the time after birth.  Ask friends ahead of time to make sure to come over even if you don't contact them, to make you meals, to care take for you (& your partner if you have one).  Once the baby comes, it can be hard at the beginning and having a community makes a huge difference.

“Prepare for the immediate post partum time by arranging help with food, laundry, dishes and garbage. My younger brother was strangely the best post partum helper ever, he cooked or picked up food every day, did the dishes and took out the garbage every night before he left. I didn't even think of needing that help, but it was so great to just be able to focus on sleeping when the baby slept, figure out nursing and enjoy our new family.”

"I had a pretty rough birth experience with a lot of interventions and things got pretty scary at one point. Most everyone tells you "well, at least you and your baby are healthy now" and dismisses what happened to you and it can be hard to try to process it in the haze of the newborn stage. So my advice: If you had a not-great birth experience, find time to reach out to a therapist or other professional to discuss your birth experience. Trauma is trauma and you deserve to take some time post-partum to process it and try to heal."

"Pregnancy and delivery is the easy part. The hardest part is the post partum, sleepless nights, your body is completely inside out but you manage to get through it and adapt to the changes because we are women and we are strong. Once you get past the 1st week it gets better but be patient! You and the little one are getting to know each other outside of the womb. And it's definitely a different world and experience, and if you have a supporting family that is also very helpful! I have a 1 month old and I can't wait to have another so she can grow with them and have a sister or brother :)."


Nice set of reminders from a seasoned mother:

Wanted to send some words of encouragement to those of us (me included) still waiting on our little ones. This is my third baby and from past experience there are a few data points I have that might be relevant for others: 
1. Being due near the end of a month is psychologically harder on these lists than being due at the beginning because you observe all the fun announcements and wonder - when will it be me? Don't stress. It will happen.  
2. First babies tend to be late. It's just a fact. If you go over your due date, please don't feel anything other than the fact your little one wants to hang out a bit longer. You didn't fail at something. It's not like a report deadline - it's simply an estimate of the first day of your "due week" - which it would be so helpful to have it reframed as.   
3. Lots of stuff can help if your body is ready for a nudge. It may not be. Don't drive yourself crazy. Do the stuff that seems enjoyable - I did massages and Accupuncture and neither really did anything but I relaxed in the process which was ultimately helpful for delivery a few days Laster. I also torture myself with castor oil ( and all kinds of gross homeopathic things which also did nothing except ruin the last remaining days of no-child-less-ness by then also having diarrhea. (Sorry if tmi) 
4. There are feelings you can't control like sadness or disappointment or anxiousness and if you feel those, that's totally ok. Give yourself permission just to feel how you feel. Also give yourself permission to go to a movie with your partner or eat a great dinner and find your happiness again!   
5. Trust in your body. It knows what to do and what it's doing."


Recommended resources and reading:

“Make sure to get the app to time contractions."

I loved reading the stories in Ina May's book as bedtime stories to remind me of the Zen experience of birthing. It helped distract me from baby-rearing, gear purchases, work distractions, etc.”


Related Reading on Park Slope Parents:

Post-birth advice

Things to think about before you go into Labor

Advice to Remember about Your Hospital Stay


Updated 09/2017 from the "PSP Birth Survey."